At Lingoloop we care very much about words. Words are important… even when you are doing Math! Take for example this simple (yet complicated) riddle. It is sometimes described as “the battle of English and Math” or “the 1 rabbit 6 elephants question.” Some versions even have 9 elephants:)
1 rabbit saw 6 elephants while going to the river.
Every elephant saw 2 monkeys going towards the river.
Every monkey holds 1 parrot in their hands.
How many animals are going towards the river?
Take some time to think and then scroll down for the correct answer.
The battle of English vs. Math… who wins?
If you answered “5” you are CORRECT! Let’s break it down:
Sentence 1: 1 rabbit saw 6 elephants while going to the river.
In sentence 1, there are 7 animals, but only 1 (the rabbit) is going to the river. The word while is modifying rabbit, not elephants. Think about it this way: if we changed the sentence to: ”The rabbit saw a plane while going to the river.” we would not say that the plane was going to the river.
Sentence 2: Every elephant saw 2 monkeys going towards the river.
Since we see the word every, we know that all of the elephants saw 2 monkeys going towards the river. The trick here is that sometimes people assume that each of the 6 elephants saw 2 discretely different (or separate) monkeys. The sentence does not say that, so we cannot make that assumption. All we know for sure is that 2 monkeys are going towards the river.
Sentence 3: Every monkey holds 1 parrot in their hands.
This isn’t that tricky as long as you know the right number of monkeys! So if there are 2 monkeys going to the river, there must only be 2 parrots if every monkey is holding just 1 parrot.
1 rabbit + 2 monkeys + 2 parrots = 5 animals
So as you can see… every word counts! Very simple words can have a dramatic effect on meaning. Even native English speakers can struggle with communication if they don’t choose their words carefully.
Are you struggling with getting your point across? Or maybe you are having trouble listening to what people are saying. If you need to improve your English communication skills, try Lingoloop. Sign up for a Lingoloop free trial class to get your English skills assess by an expert tutor!